Travel Safety Tips for the Solo Traveler

Travel Safety Tips for the Solo Traveler

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I honestly have no idea how many times I’ve told someone about a place I wanted to go to or was about to visit, only for the immediate response to be “But it’s so dangerous!” 

Not exactly a helpful travel safety tip.

While I completely empathize with the fear many people have about new places, I would never want that fear to hold people back from travel. The truth is, more often than not, the biggest risk you usually have to look out for is pickpocketing. But this is also the case in most cities, even within the U.S.

And although those friends, family members and strangers may mean well by trying to deter you, their warnings are often misguided.

While there are plenty of travel safety tips to follow (that we’ll soon get into), I first want to get this out of the way: don’t let fear hold you back from what you want. And if what you want is to travel, remember that you’re stronger, braver, and more capable than you give yourself credit for. Sorry, that was corny, but had to be said! Preparation is key, and with these tips, you’ll be more than ready to take on your next adventure, solo or not.

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But first, let’s acknowledge the travel safety risks . . .

Yes, you should still read the safety alerts and be aware of the risks associated with certain places (check out the U.S. Department of State travel advisories). Of course, certain identities like race and ethnicity or being part of the LGBTQ+ community can impact your safety as well, so if this applies to you, I’d recommend researching specifically about the laws and social culture of the destination you have in mind, along with looking up what other traveler’s experiences have been in that place before making your decision to travel there.

But in general, most risks beyond petty theft don’t impact tourists or people in touristy areas.

While safety is a very real and valid concern, it’s not something that has to hold you back from exploring the places you’ve dreamt about. What we can do, is prepare for it!

Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get to how we prepare.

Travel safety tips, before traveling

  • When searching for places to stay, make sure to research the location. Always read reviews! One reason I love Hostelworld is that it ranks accommodations by location and security. These should be top priorities when deciding where to stay. Especially if you’re new to traveling, you’ll want to stay in a central location close to most of the sites you want to see.
  • Travel insurance is the type of thing you hope you won’t have to use, but if you need it, you’ll definitely be glad you have it. I’ve always used World Nomads. Just be sure to read the fine print and be sure you understand what’s covered and what’s not before buying.

Packing for your solo travel adventure

  • Make a copy of your passport. While I’ve never had to use it, I definitely feel better knowing I have it in an emergency. Keep a digital copy saved to your phone and emailed to you as well. You never know!
  • If your trip involves multiple locations, also print out a copy of your itinerary.  This should include:
    • Every address of where you’ll be staying, including hostels, hotels, or Airbnbs, plus a phone number.
    • All your flight information, including the dates/times, airports, flight numbers, and confirmation codes.
    • Notes about other transportation if not flying between cities.
    • Emergency contact information of someone back home.
    • Email this to yourself, and save it to your photos so you can access it without WiFi. Also share it with someone back home.

Safety tips for when you arrive

  • If your phone plan doesn’t provide coverage abroad (my current Verizon plan allows my phone to work normally in Mexico and Canada for free), get a SIM Card. While I didn’t do this during my first few international trips, I’d definitely recommend this for safety reasons. While it’s nice to unplug, having phone access means the ability to use Maps as well as call Ubers without WiFi, assuming the city you’re visiting uses Uber. 
  • Getting a SIM card tends to be more affordable than using an international data plan through your original phone provider. You can purchase a physical one (you’ll have to look into where to find one in your specific destination). Or, depending on what kind of phone you have, you can now purchase a digital SIM. I used Airalo for the first time last year. While it was a little wonky getting it set up, it then worked with no issues for the duration of my trip. For both physical and e-SIMS, you can typically select a data plan based on how long you’ll be traveling.

Safety tips for the day-to-day

Do . . .

  • Check in with someone at home every day! This one’s pretty self-explanatory.
  • Dress like the locals. This varies from place to place for sure, but keeping in mind locations that tend to dress more conservatively versus not, or even tiny things like type of shoes (for instance in Rio de Janeiro, I always wear flip flips) will make a big difference in feeling comfortable and sticking out a little less. Of course, there’s only so much you can do here, and being seen as a tourist can be inevitable, so don’t stress too much about this one.
  • Take only what you need each day. Have a bag that can zip/close securely, and wear it either across your body or in front of you depending on the bag. Aim to keep your hand on it as much as possible!
  • Walk around like you know where you’re going! Even if you have no clue, walk quickly and with your head up. This will deter pickpocketing and will make you look like less of an easy target.
  • Especially if you’re new to traveling or solo travel, stay more on the beaten path, and of course, stay away from abandoned or dark areas, especially at night. At night, take Ubers rather than public transportation or walking.
  • Go on tours! Solo travel does not mean being alone the whole time. Whether you’re new to traveling/solo traveling or not, tours are a great to way to get a feel for a city, hit a lot of destinations in one day without navigating transportation, to connect with other travelers, and to feel safe. Since they’re run by local guides, you can also get a lot of great local knowledge and tips, which both helps with safety, while also helping you get the most out of a trip! A win-win. You can typically find tours through your hostel/hotel, but checking Viator is also always a great option.
Peru

Don’t . . .

  • Post on social media while you’re still in that location! While this can sometimes be hard for me to follow — because I totally get the urge of wanting to post immediately — it’s really in your best interest to be more ~mysterious~ and hold off on posting until you’re in a different place.
  • Walk around with your phone out. While it’s second nature to walk while holding your phone for many Americans, this can make you a target to pickpocketing that can be common in many major cities. Keep your valuables hidden! This goes for cameras too. Keep everything concealed, take it out for a quick picture after checking your surroundings, then immediately put it away.
  • Wear expensive jewelry. Trust me, I’ve learned this one the hard way.
  • Carry all your money at once. If you have multiple credit/debit cards, only bring one out with you each day. Carry some cash just in case, but only take what you think you’ll need for that day. Keep everything else safely secured (preferably in different places) where you’re staying, whether it’s in a lockbox if you’re in a shared hostel room, or hidden away with your things. Keep all other valuables and your passport safely secured and hidden away as well. (And speaking of money, for all my best tips to traveling on a budget, check out this guide.)
Solo traveling doesn't have too be scary. By following travel safety tips, you can have an enriching and exciting travel experience.
Salvador, Brazil

While this may seem like a lot, don’t get overwhelmed! Feeling prepared is the number one way to feel ready to take on the challenges, but also excitement and joys of traveling. 

Plus, all of these travel safety tips will feel pretty intuitive once you’re in the midst of your travels. 

And one more tip … speaking of intuition, be aware of your surroundings and listen to your gut! If a person or a place feels sketchy, it’s not worth it. Honor that feeling. Don’t worry about offending someone, or feeling like you need to be as “adventurous” as possible. If you’re traveling solo, be cautious before telling someone you’re traveling alone, or where you’re staying.

Trust in yourself to keep yourself safe — and trust that the more you travel, the more empowered you will feel, and the more you will establish that trust with yourself.

Happy travels,

Tess

P.S. Looking for more even travel planning inspiration? Check out this post with the 5 best countries in Latin America to solo travel, and this guide to planning a solo trip on a budget. It’s packed full with all the tips you need to have a successful trip.

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2 Comments

  1. Anja
    June 23, 2024 / 9:22 am

    Really useful! I follow all of your tips and have travelled safely for over 30 years, despite visiting some “difficult” countries. Another one for me is I don’t really drink when travelling alone to be sure to keep my wits about, after a “small cold beer” in the heat in Myanmar (in more peaceful times) saw me staggering back to my hotel

    • Tess
      Author
      June 23, 2024 / 5:11 pm

      this is such an important tip too, thank you!! that definitely sounds like a scary experience, I hope you were ok!!

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